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Social Learning Theory, developed by Bandura, focuses on the effect other people's behaviour has on
our own through the process of observation and vicarious learning.
Children will often gain a lot of knowledge and experience from their parents, which is to be expected.
Parents or carers will control the amount and the type of food entering the house which means that the
child will inevitably shape their food preferences and attitudes on this.
Aside from the obvious though, research has suggested that there is a general link between parental
and child food preferences. Brown and Ogden (2004) reported consistent correlations between parents
and their children in terms of the amount of snacks, eating motivations and body dissatisfaction.
Meyer and Gast (2008) demonstrated the importance of social learning in relation to eating behaviour.
After surveying 10 to 12 year olds, they found a significant positive correlation between peer influence
and disordered eating. The "likeability" of peers was considered the most important variable in the
More support came from Birch and Fisher (2000) who found that the best way to predict a daughters'
eating behaviour was to observe the mothers' dietary restraints and attitudes to food.
People who appear on television and in other forms of media can become role models on which people
base their own behaviour on.
MacIntyre et al (1998) found that media impacts both what people eat, and their attitudes towards
However, researchers have also stated that many eating behaviours that are displayed through media
are not available to individuals due to circumstances such as: age, income and family circumstances.
People still shape their eating behaviour on media role models, they simply adapt it to fit their current
Social learning is not the only way in which people develop food preferences as people are exposed to
varying amounts of media and some are more susceptible than others. Some food preferences can
evolve through time, such as our preference for sweet things.
Cultural influences are those features that surround you which make an impact on your life. These differ
throughout the world and play a role in individuals attitudes towards food.
Research has suggested that eating behaviour can differ between people of different skin colour. It has
been suggested by Powell and Khan (1995) that eating disorders, such as bulimia and anorexia nervosa
are more characteristic of white women than any other ethnicity.
Ball and Kennedy (2002) studied over 14,000 women between 18 and 23 in Australia. They found that for
all ethnic groups, the more time spent in Australia the more the women reported eating patterns and
behaviour more similar to those women who were born in Australia. This is known as the acculturation
Some studies do not support ethnic differences at all. Mumford et al (1991) found that bulimia nervosa
was more common among Asian schoolgirls that white schoolgirls.
StriegalMoore et al (1995) also found more evidence of a "drive for thinness" among black girls, than
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Where people stand in society can influence individuals a great deal. A number of studies have found
that body dissatisfaction and other features related to disordered eating are more commonly found in the
Dornbusch et al (1984) surveyed 7,000 American adolescents and concluded that higher class females
displayed a greater desire to be thin, and as a result were more likely to diet than girls of a lower class.…read more
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There is speculation as to why people continue to binge eat. As there is little or no rewards afterwards
there is no form of reinforcement for the behaviour which contradicts the concept of Social Learning
All cultures are difference and their attitudes to food will influence individuals views as well. Rozin et al
(1999) conducted a study on students from America, Belgium, France and Japan. All were given a
questionnaire about food related issues.…read more